The Top 10 Best Side Hustles for University Students in 2024

10 min read

8 Jul 2024


The image of the cash-strapped student living on instant noodles and beans on toast is a cliché for a reason. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that, in the current cost of living crisis, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet while studying full-time.

Even student life is changing; 47% of students say that they’re socialising less due to financial considerations, and almost half of students (49%) report having to miss classes in order to do paid work.

Source: The Sutton Trust polling on the impact of the cost of living crisis on students

Many students work part-time, but not all employers are keen to hire you if you go back home for the holidays - and in any case, you don’t want to take on so many hours that you don’t have time for your academic work, or find yourself with an employer who won’t accept that you can’t take a shift that clashes with a lecture.

The answer? A side hustle, that brings in some extra cash without hoovering up all your time.

This solution is becoming increasingly popular; a recent study found that 36% of students had their own side hustle or business.

Source: The National Student Money Survey 2023

We’ve compiled some of the best side hustles you can find in 2024, tailored to students’ lifestyles, to save you having to trawl endlessly through the internet to find an option that’ll work for you.

So, What Is A Side Hustle, Anyway?

A side hustle is a pretty broad term. It essentially means any way to make extra money alongside a regular job - or, for a student, alongside your studies.

Side hustles are growing in popularity in large part thanks to their flexibility, which means you can fit them in around other commitments, as and when you have time.

They also offer an opportunity to follow your passion - crafty people could turn their hobbies into profitable small businesses, for example, or if you plan on a career in teaching, you could gain invaluable experience from tutoring.

You can find our comprehensive guide to the 33 Best Side Hustles in 2024 here, or, for our carefully curated list of the side hustles best suited to students, keep reading!

1. Matched Betting

We may be biased, but we’re pretty sure Matched Betting is the best side hustle out there.

Matched Betting? Like gambling?

Nope, definitely not like gambling! Matched Betting means betting both for (a ‘back’ bet) and against (a ‘lay’ bet) the outcome of an event. For example, you might bet that Newcastle will win their next match, but also that they won’t win.

You can use this technique to make money because bookmakers have tons of offers running all the time to attract new customers. Most of these offers are along the lines of ‘bet £10 to get a £10 free bet’. By matching the first bet, you break even, and you then use the second free bet to make your profit.

If you do it right, you’re mathematically guaranteed to make money - and to make sure you do get it right, Outplayed have dedicated software to guide you through your Matched Betting journey. You only need around £30 - £100 to get started, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to the profits you can make. The more time you have to devote to Matched Betting, the more you can make from it (some people even do it as their full time job!) but you only need to spend 10-15 minutes a day on Matched Betting to be making a few hundred pounds a month.

Read our complete guide to find out all you need to know to get started with Matched Betting, or sign up for our free trial to access your first £850 of profit.

2. Tutoring, Teaching Or Coaching

If you’ve got a skill, the chances are someone will want to learn it, and if you’re a university student, the chances are you’ve got a skill. Whether you can offer basic English and Maths tuition, music lessons, sports coaching or lessons in a foreign language, your area of expertise is likely to be in high demand. You can organise sessions around your academic schedule, and expect to make reasonable money - certainly more than you’d get from your average part time bartending job.

You may well be able to find tutees among younger students, who’ll appreciate your experience and knowledge of the courses you’ve already taken, but there are also plenty of online agencies out there to match you with tutees, such as Tutorful, one of the biggest tutoring sites in the UK.

3. Influencing And Affiliate Marketing

For the social media savvy, monetising your existing following has probably already occurred to you. If you can build enough of a brand, you’ll begin to attract attention from companies looking to advertise their products through you.

Alternatively, many companies offer dedicated affiliate marketing schemes, which mean you get paid every time someone follows a link you provide to a product or service. You can find more about affiliate marketing at the Outplayed Affiliate Program page - some of our top affiliates earn as much as £40,000 a year, more than the average full time wage in the UK!

4. Photography

If you’re already a skilled photographer, you can put your talents to profitable use. Although phone cameras keep getting better, they haven’t yet been able to match the skills of a professional, and people are still prepared to pay well for quality shots.

As a freelancer, you’ll be able to set your schedule to meet your needs, although you may find yourself being booked up weeks or even months in advance, which doesn’t allow for last minute changes.

Another alternative is to sell stock photos online, through a variety of platforms, such as Shutterstock. You probably won’t earn quite so much, but you’ll be able to ensure your side hustle never gets in the way of your studies, or your life.

5. Babysitting, House Sitting Or Pet Sitting

Looking after other people’s children or pets would sound like some people’s worst nightmare, but if you’ve got a soft spot for small people or furry things, this could be right up your street. There are tons of agencies online that offer to pair babysitters, or pet sitters, with clients seeking their services, meaning all you have to do is turn up and make sure to keep your customers’ loved ones safe.

For an even easier option, you can try house sitting. You usually get paid a certain amount per day by your customers, and in return you stay at their house overnight, water their plants, and borrow their Netflix account.

6. Driving

If you’re lucky enough to have a car at uni, you’ve got the immediate option of signing up to a service such as Uber or Lyft as a driver, or to a food delivery service such as UberEats or Deliveroo. If you’re in the centre of a city, you can even deliver takeaways with just a bike!

This probably isn’t going to make you a fortune, and you will have the expense of petrol and extra insurance to consider, but you can choose your hours to suit your schedule, which makes it ideal to fit in around student life.

7. Start An Etsy Shop

If you’ve got an artistic or crafty flair, you can look at scaling up your existing hobbies and selling on a platform like Etsy. Etsy’s tailor-made for creatives and makes it completely straightforward to set up as a small shop and start selling. You can list your products as and when you make them, meaning that if you find yourself with a tight deadline for an essay (probably after ignoring it for a month), you don’t need to worry about fulfilling any orders - you can just focus on your assignment.

The downsides include having to deal with angry customers, and potentially making small margins on your items given the time taken to make them. But if you love your hobby and would be, say, crocheting woodland creatures anyway, you might as well make some money off it!

8. Freelance Writing Or Editing

If you can cope with the idea of doing more writing alongside all your uni work, freelance copywriting can be a great way to make money if you’re a dab hand with words. Freelancing agencies such as Upwork allow you to find clients, although as it’s pretty competitive you may find you need to charge a low rate to begin with while you build up your portfolio and reputation.

Similarly, if you’ve got an eye for spelling and grammar, you could take on freelance proofreading or editing work - and as a student, you’ve got a built-in customer base at your uni. You could offer out your services to fellow students to ensure their essays are in tip-top shape for submission.

9. Working At Events Or Productions

Students are often seen as the perfect candidates for ad hoc work at events. You can make a fair rate as a steward at concerts or talks, while getting a great view of the stage. You may even get to meet your professional heroes, if you end up working at events related to your own subject.

Another alternative is to sign up with an agency to be an extra in film or TV productions. You won’t necessarily be able to rely on steady work, but you’ll have a great time, get fed, potentially meet (or at least spot from a distance) some of your favourite actors, and get paid for the privilege. Universal Extras are one of the top agencies for extras, and they just so happen to offer free registration for students - just show them proof of your studies, and you’re in.

10. Research/Focus Groups

Along with keeping the alcohol industry afloat, one of the main functions of a university is to produce research. And for a lot of research projects, participants are needed, which is where you get the chance to earn some cash. Although you might find yourself taking part in some odd activities (one psychological study we heard about involved the participants being subjected to electric shocks!), you get the satisfaction of contributing to the sum of human knowledge. And, of course, some money.

There are also a lot of market research companies out there looking for participants for their projects, which generally speaking come without the risk of electric shocks. You won’t be able to do huge numbers of these, as researchers prefer people who haven’t taken part in too many studies, but they do pay well - as much as £30 - £70 an hour. There are quite a few market research companies out there: UserInterviews, AngelFish and Your Voice are all great places to sign up to if you’re keen to become a participant.

Things To Keep In Mind

  • Tax implications

If you’re self-employed, running your own business, or freelancing, and making over £1000 a year, you’ll need to pay tax on your income (groan). Filling in a tax return is a bit of a pain, but straightforward enough for most self-employed people. Just remember to set aside enough of your earnings to pay any tax you owe.

One major benefit of Matched Betting, however, is that your profit is completely tax free. Gambling winnings are exempt from tax, and even though you aren’t technically gambling, your profits from Matched Betting still count. So, enjoy keeping all your extra cash for yourself!

  • Visa restrictions

If you’re an international student, your student visa may carry restrictions as to the type of work you can do. Most foreign students won’t be allowed to be self-employed, although they can usually work up to 20 hours a week as a paid employee - so bear this in mind when thinking about the side hustles that’ll work best for you.

  • Make use of your uni’s services

Many universities have dedicated services available to students looking to set up their own small businesses, which can give you an invaluable boost when you first get started. Check out what your uni offers you, and don’t be shy about taking advantage - it’s literally what the service is there for!

Now Get Going!

If you’ve reached the end of this article, you’ve probably got an idea of what you might like to do. Making your first move is the biggest hurdle, so give yourself a push to get over it. Whatever your plan, whether you’ll be knitting socks for kittens to sell on Etsy, teaching Cambodian to the elderly, or signing up for an Outplayed free trial to start Matched Betting, the time to do it is now!

Updated: 8 Jul 2024

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The Author

Stephanie is a published author and, having taken up Matched Betting fairly recently, she knows exactly how beginners feel when they first start Matched Betting. She loves breaking down complex subjects in straightforward terms to make them accessible to newcomers, and to speed them on their way to making their first profits.

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